Touching the Heart

Seems that twitter is the place to find all my long-lost soul-kin.

For example, please welcome Karen Caterson (@SquarePegKaren), author of today's guest post. In her words, she is a "Recovering Psychotherapist, Square-Peg Advocate and Writer at Square-Peg Reflections, where she can be found wondering, weaving life-stories, swearing, and relishing the Square-Peg community (but not necessarily in that order)."


I want to talk about touching the heart - the gift of real person-to-person communication. I'll start by sharing a couple of explanatory stories.

And being the bass-ackwards kind of gal that I am, I'll tell you the one that illustrates not touching the heart first. This is my DMV story...

I was at the local Department of Motor Vehicles office with my daughter a couple weeks ago (the chore part of a girls' day out). And while I wasn't expecting to see anyone sit down to cookies and tea with their chosen government worker, I didn't realize that the visit would be so impersonal (and weird).

While I waited for my daughter to renew her license I looked around. The office wasn't busy - only 2 workers, 2 customers - and me. One worker - the fellow across the room - laughed with his customer. Both he and the customer were smiling a lot. No cookies and tea, but still...

My daughter was called to the desk of a woman who didn't seem to be there to laugh and smile with her people. The interaction was odd. With an expressionless face and a monotone voice, my daughter was asked the (apparently) standard questions. I would say that it was a no-nonsense kind of exchange, but I can't - it was BIG nonsense.

After complying with the request to: "Sign there.", Slightly-Brit (daughter) was asked: "Is that your signature?" Huh? I thought maybe she'd used a signature vastly different from the one on her old license. But no - this was just the first of a series of superfluous questions.

Next Slightly-Brit was told to look at a particular spot as her photo was taken. Then she was asked (while being shown the photo that was just taken): "Is that your picture?"

What? Are there photo-altering ghosts at the DMV now? Who else's picture could that possibly be? But we're not done yet.

The woman assisting Slightly-Brit pushed buttons, moved levers and pulled out my daughter's brand new driver's license. Before handing it over though, she had another question (of the woman, my daughter, who had not moved from her chair during this whole procedure - and who was the only person within 12 foot of the government worker's desk or license making machine) - and she asked this with an expressionless face and a monotone voice: "Is this your signature and your photo?" Argh!

How can someone ask questions like that without a hint of humor? Even if you aren't a chuckler, I think it'd be hard not to share an ain't-this-standard-operating-procedure-crap-ridiculous moment with a customer. But there was no connection - or communication (no heart touching) - in that encounter. Just procedure, just: "1-2-3 Next!"

Contrast the DMV visit with this experience: during my Gestalt Therapy trainings I was wont to cry at one particular point during every training week-end - the time when I was a client (the week-ends involved triad work where we each took a turn as a therapist, a client and an observer).

We would get into groups, go off to find a semi-secluded spot and start to work. I didn't cry when I was the therapist or the observer. But every time I was the client I'd start to cry immediately. Before our "session" started!

"Why?", you ask. Well, even if you didn't ask - I sure did! "Why? Why? Why am I crying every #%@!-ing time I'm the client!?!"

I bet you know! It had to do with real communication. But I didn't realize that until - after my 47 zillionth repetition of the question: "Why? Why? Why am I crying every #%@!-ing time I'm the client!?!" - when another trainee wondered if I wasn't reacting to being seen and heard (brilliant folks, those Gestalters!).

Yes, I was! My heart was being touched - I was being seen and heard every time I was the client - that's a rare gift. No wonder I cried (for joy!).

These stories are from opposite ends of the communication spectrum. There's a lot of difference between dealing with someone in an automaton-like way (no connection) and encountering someone person-to-person in real communication - connecting in a way that allows someone to feel seen and heard.

Real communication (touching hearts/having our hearts touched) is something we all deeply desire (maybe even need).

And whether it's as tiny as a few seconds of meaningful eye contact or a smile on the run -- or as big as a couple hours of deep soul sharing with a trusted other - we can all touch hearts. We have opportunities every day for real person-to-person communication.

So which end of the spectrum would you like to move toward? Do you want to be someone's DMV-type horror story (good for a giggle when told, but not heart touching - not life expanding) or would you rather make grown people cry touch hearts?

Go touch hearts!